Col. James Fly Jr., commander Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, talks with graduates at the Arsenal Academy graduation Friday afternoon at St. Ambrose University's 54th Street campus. (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Larry Fisher

About a dozen supervisors at the Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center underwent 12 weeks of basic training - training that is geared toward networking and streamlining operations.

The first Arsenal Academy class graduated Friday in a ceremony at St. Ambrose University's East 54th Street campus in Davenport.

"I was amazed at how many of our supervisors didn't know what our goals as an Arsenal were," said Col. James Fly Jr., commander of the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center. "This opened my eyes."

Fly said the survival of the Arsenal depends on how well supervisors network with each other and outside agencies. The Arsenal Academy bridges the gap for those who become supervisors but lack management skills, he said.

"This is an excellent way to develop our supervisors," Fly said.

The Rock Island Arsenal is the largest employer in the Quad-Cities and home to approximately 50 Department of Defense organizations. Its annual economic impact on the local economy is estimated at more than

$1 billion.

For decades, St. Ambrose has provided educational and professional development services to the Arsenal, university spokeswoman Jane Kettering said.

In April 2011, the center awarded St. Ambrose, Black Hawk College, Western Illinois University and veteran-owned Spirit Partners Inc. a five-year, $1.5 million training contract, Kettering said. St. Ambrose is managing the contract.

The pilot class that graduated Friday began October 2011.

"This was a collaborative effort, which doesn't happen very often among the local colleges," said Regina Matheson, dean of graduate and adult education at St. Ambrose.

The Arsenal Academy is facilitated by faculty members who are providing a comprehensive supervisory training program for center supervisors. Spirit Partners, headquartered in Rock Island, is assisting by offering detailed knowledge of the internal JMTC operations.

Matheson expects the next class to begin possibly late spring.

"We'll take the feedback from this course and alter it to be even more efficient," she said.

Mike DeWitte, one of the students, said he learned skills in conflict management, streamlining and human relations.

"It was a good mix of training necessary for the supervisor level," he said.

DeWitte said the need to improve one's skill set was drilled into each student.

"The status quo is never satisfactory," he said.